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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: skranket

Today’s word is a bar, just not the kind you want to be propping up.

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

A skrank is ‘a separating rail, especially in a public institution’ or ‘an upright standing construction by a staircase.’ A ‘handrail’ one could say, but not quite. In Swedish skrank would nearly never be used in that context, for that you would use the word räcke. Skrank instead refers to a domarskrank, a ‘judge’s rail’. 

English speakers will know it as ‘the bar’, that is the bar by which a lawyer stands, which is also where the English word ‘barrister’ comes from. 

Skranket primarily occurs in the expression inför skranket or sometimes as att träda inför skranket. Träda has the same root as ‘to tread’, and means ‘to walk,’ ‘to step,’ or ‘to appear.’ And inför means ‘in front of’. The meaning is then ‘to appear in front of the bar to be judged’. 

You say ‘in front’ of the bar, even though in Swedish courts, the person on trial, the lawyers, and the judge, all sit behind it, with the bar separating the audience. 

The reason for this is that until the new Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure came into effect in 1948, the bar used to be placed between the judge and the everyone else, including the lawyers and the accused. 

Svensk ordbok, the dictionary published by the Swedish Academy, gives us the origin of the word. Skrank is attested to since 1624, and it really does feel like an old word to a Swedish ear. It comes from the Low German schrank, which meant ‘bars; cordon’.

The dictionary gives us another Swedish word, inskränkt, which has the same origin. Inskränkt means to be ‘narrow minded’ or ‘limited’, most often referring to someone’s intellectual capacities.   

Try not to be inskränkt, and do your best to avoid att träda inför skranket. Ask your friends and colleagues if they know what a skrank is, chances are that the meaning of this unusual word is unknown to them, especially to the younger ones.

Example sentences:

Pelle, vet du vad ett skrank är?

Pelle, do you know what a ‘skrank’ is?

Vad händer med Pelle? Han ska träda inför skranket imorgon.

What’s up with Pelle? He’s going on trial tomorrow.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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For members

SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: kran

What big noses, drug dealers, taps and builders have in common.

Swedish word of the day: kran

Kran has at least 4 possible meanings in Swedish. The word itself originates from the Middle Low German kran, taken from krane which means “crane”, as in the bird. But in Swedish a kran is never a “crane”, that beautiful bird is called a trana in Swedish.

The first meaning of kran is the lifting device used by builders, dockworkers and others. This can also be called a lyftkran, literally a “lifting crane”. Famous Swedish examples of these are the iconic red cranes of Hisingen island in Gothenburg, left there as a reminder of the large shipyards that used to be one of the big industries of the city. 

The second meaning of kran is a “tap” or a “faucet”. You can also say vattenkran, but kran is usually enough. Kranar, that is the plural, can be used for more than water, as you well know, so vattenkran is not the only compound word with kran in it. And since Swedish is a language where you are free to create compound words without anyone batting an eyelid, here are a few possible ones: gaskran, soppkran, saftkran, and so on and so forth.

The third meaning of kran is “nose”. Not just any nose, this word is often used in reference to a particularly big nose. Nothing wrong with that. Famous Swedish examples include Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as actor Fares Fares. Do keep in mind that people can be sensitive around the subject of their abnormally large noses, so use kran with discretion, as it is most likely to be interpreted as offensive unless you are close friends with the person with the kran.

The fourth meaning of kran is “drug dealer”. It is a slang word, of course, kind of like “pusher” or “candy man”. The idea is more along the lines of “supplier”, and it is sometimes used to denote suppliers of other, not illicit, products, although we do recommend to instead use the word leverantör for that.

A bit of trivia: “geranium”, also called cranesbill, shares its etymological origin with “crane” in the greek word γέρανος (géranos) which means crane. The reason the plant is called this, as well as its English name “cranesbill” is due to the resemblance, in some of the species, between the fruit capsule and a crane’s head and bill.

Example sentences

Luktat dig till ett bra pris på den här kranen med din kran eller?

Smelled your way to a good offer on this crane with your snout, did you?”

Har du sett de vackra gamla kranarna i Göteborg?

Have you seen the beautiful old cranes in Gothenburg?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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